453. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nutter) to Secretary of Defense Laird1


  • Advanced Aircraft for Greece and Turkey

During the past few months the Greek Government has moved steadily toward the purchase of a significant number of advanced aircraft from the US (you approved the sale of F–4ʼs to Greece in October 1970). The imminence of this sale has had a galvanic effect on official attitudes in both Greece and Turkey, and we expect the issue to figure prominently in discussions with Prime Minister Erim of Turkey when he visits Washington next month.

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If Greece buys advanced aircraft either from the US or France, we anticipate a sharp reaction in Turkey where in addition to an acute awareness of Turkish versus Warsaw Pact tactical air deficiencies, any change in the relative balance of Greek-Turkish forces poses both real and psychological problems. The situation will likely be exacerbated by a significant reduction in US military aid in FY 1972. Moreover, implementation of the proposed USN and USAF homeporting and basing arrangements in Greece and Crete could pose a further irritant. The Turks already perceive what they believe to be actions which will give the Greeks a military capability they heretofore have not possessed. When the USN and USAF proposals become public, it is likely the Government of Turkey, and Turkish public opinion, will conclude that we have decided to root the preponderance of our interests in the eastern Mediterranean in Greece. They may further conclude that these moves are to be followed by a more general shift of US policy to favor Greece at Turkeyʼs expense. We cannot predict with any confidence the ultimate consequence of such a Turkish perception, but it could well involve an adverse impact on valuable US [less than 1 line not declassified] military rights in Turkey.

The requirement to modernize Turkeyʼs Air Force is equal to, if not greater, than that of Greece. Although part of Turkeyʼs modernization requirement could be met by provision of F–5E aircraft, a valid need remains for all-weather fighter aircraft such as the F–4. ISA is currently reviewing world-wide air modernization requirements with a view to isolating the funding problem for priority attention within the military security assistance program. It is unlikely, however, that this problem can be resolved prior to the FY–74 budget cycle.

In the meantime, we believe that despite the cost and complexity of the F–4ʼs, their psychological significance to the Turks could become so great that we must now weigh certain options that might be available to retain Turkish cooperation if the F–4 sale to Greece is consummated. In evaluating such options it must be understood that their feasibility is dependent upon sufficient grant/FMS funds being available to the Department of Defense. The options, with pros and cons, that might be considered are as follows:

Option I. Continue with the F–5E program for Turkey which would fund 72 aircraft (4 squadrons) in the FY–74/75 timeframe and provide delivery during FY 76–77.


Would satisfy modernization requirement for 4 fighter squadrons.

Provides new versus used or rehabilitated aircraft; thus the life span is longer, certainly is less costly and easier to maintain and operate than F–4 series.

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Provides maximum quantitative modernization at given cost. ($115 million buys 4 squadrons of F–5ʼs; one squadron of F–4ʼs costs $120 million.)


Turkey might not be satisfied with anything less than F–4ʼs if Greeks get F–4ʼs.

If an “F–5 or nothing” deal offered to Turks, they might reject and turn to the French Mirage.

Option II. In addition to 4 squadrons of F–5Eʼs (or as offset to the provision of 1 or 2 of these squadrons), divert F–4 C and Dʼs to meet Turkish requirement when the 23 F–4Eʼs currently on loan to Australia are returned (FY 73–74) to the USAF inventory.


Would assuage Turkish feelings, and weaken case for Greek-Turk imbalance.

From the standpoint of Turk ability to “fly” F–4ʼs, they would very likely be more successful with F–4C and Dʼs than the F–4E.


F–4C and Dʼs freed by returning F–4Eʼs are intended for U.S. Air National Guard; diversion would delay modernization of ANG.

F–4 aircraft are expensive to operate and maintain and, in terms of money and technology, would impose severe demands on Turk resources.

Diversion of Turkish funds to an F–4 purchase program could jeopardize other important armed forces modernization efforts.

Heavy investment in F–4ʼs would stimulate requests and demands for additional grant assistance to compensate for the drain on resources.

Would irritate the Greeks because they were not first offered a “used” F–4 squadron at a bargain price.

Option III. In addition to 4 squadrons of F–5Eʼs (or as offset to the provision of 1 or 2 of these squadrons), utilize the 23 F–4Eʼs from Australia to fulfill the Turkish requirement.


Would enable F–4Eʼs to be included in both Turk and Greek inventories thus maintaining “balance.”


Would deprive USAF of anticipated update in F–4E inventory, and ANG update in F–4C/D inventory.

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Increased sophistication of F–4E would severely tax Turk resources. As a combat “package,” the 23 F–4Eʼs would be considerably more effective in the USAF.

Would irritate Greeks because they were not offered “used” F–4E squadron at a bargain price.


On balance, I believe the F–5E would be a more suitable aircraft for the Turks than would the F–4. Moreover, provision of this aircraft would be in consonance with current projections in the overall F–5E program. Accordingly, appreciating the variables involved, and in line with existing guidance to the Country Team, if approached by the Turks, we should promote the F–5E. In lieu of attempting to discourage the Turks from acquiring the F–4 aircraft, we would make arrangements for JUSMMAT to brief the Turks on the cost factors of the two aircraft and let the Turks make their own decision. Hopefully the disparity in costs, paucity of Turkish resources and dwindling world-wide MAP grant resources might persuade the Turks to opt for the F–5E.2
In the event the Greek F–4 sale is consummated, we recognize that the Turks may not be satisfied with anything less than F–4ʼs. In this circumstances, it is also possible that USG interests would dictate that we make available F–4ʼs to the Turks. Therefore, we should, without reference to the Turks, commence now to identify possible sources of F–4ʼs that might be made available and the essential balancing program adjustments. To this end, it is recommended that we request USAF views relative to Options II and III above. We would seek also information regarding other all-weather aircraft that might be considered as possible alternatives.3
West Germany for a number of years has provided a measure of military aid to Turkey and has shown real sympathy for Ankaraʼs lack of resources to meet pressing modernization needs. In view of the FRGʼs major F–4 procurement program, I propose that we explore Bonnʼs willingness to assist the Turks in this area, perhaps by providing German-produced components as grant aid or by facilitating a Turkish buy by offering long term, low-interest credit.4
G. Warren Nutter
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Subject Files: FRC 330 75–0009, T–87 F–4 Greece/F–5 Turkey. Secret.
  2. Secretary Laird initialed the approval option on March 3. In a March 31 letter to Prime Minister Erim, Laird suggested a briefing by U.S. officials comparing the costs and performance of the two aircraft. (Ibid., FRC 330 75–0125, 000.1–333 Turkey, 1972)
  3. Secretary Laird initialed the approval option on March 3.
  4. Secretary Laird initialed the approval option on March 3 and added by hand: “after trying No. I.”